Students for Sensible Drug Policy at Victoria University in Footscray, Melbourne recently organized a debate to discuss the impact of Australia’s current drug policies and its effects on our community. We believe these policies ignore the empirical evidence supporting the harm reduction model of a Medically Supervised Injecting Centre (MSCI) and essentially, the human aspect of drug dependency.
We were honoured to have Dr Alex Wodak speak for the affirmative as he was instrumental in establishing Australia’s first needle and syringe exchange program and in setting up the medically supervised injecting centre in Kings Cross. That service, which opened in 2001, was the first in the English-speaking world and remains the only service of its kind in the southern hemisphere. Along with Insite in Vancouver, Canada, it is an innovative harm reduction service for injecting drug users.
The debate was held at our campus in Footscray to publicly highlight the urgent need for a MSIC to be established in Melbourne. We had representatives from local, state and Federal Parliament and all political parties were present except one.
Due to an unexpected technical turn of events beyond our control there was no voting from the audience. However based on the Q & A at the end and the discussions after the event the majority of those who attended were in favour of establishing a MSIC in Melbourne.
There was a small amount of media coverage for this event given we had no funding and limited resources and time at our disposal. However given the passion of our members, we were able to get a radio interview established for Dr Wodak regarding the topic of this debate (http://media.mytalk.com.au/3AW/AUDIO/160512_Hinch.mp3) and the local newspaper interviewed Dr Wodak prior to the debate (http://www.brimbankweekly.com.au/news/local/news/general/injecting-rooms-spruiked/2563251.aspx). We also had a reporter from a major newspaper attend the debate.
We were very happy with the way the event ran, and given the challenges we faced and overcame we all look forward to holding another event, before the end of the year to keep this issue present in the Australian media.